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The Lesser

Newsletter of the
Charleston Audubon &
Natural History Society

November-December, 2008

South Carolina’s Painted Buntings

President’s Note Thursday, November 13th, Laurel Barnhill will present details of two projects
involving Painted Buntings in our State: The Population Assessment Project’s
By the time you read this note, Election Day may objective is to generate a useful Painted Bunting population estimate for South
be past. There are many crises facing our nation, Carolina, assessing how many birds are found in the state, and what areas
but I urge you to keep the environment in mind and habitat they are using. This is a multi-state effort that was initiated in
as you cast your vote on November 4 – and when- 2007 and data collection is on-going. The Painted Bunting Observer Team is a
ever the opportunity arrises to make your voice citizen science, feeder watch project that relies on volunteers to watch for
heard. On the national level, we need to elect can- buntings and submit their data on-line. This on-going project is a collabora-
didates who will invest in alternative energy tion including SCDNR and the University of North
strategies (and resist pressure to open protected Carolina, Wilmington. More information online at
areas to oil drilling), take serious measures to ad-
dress the issue of global warming, and safeguard Laurel Barnhill is the Bird Conservation Coordina-
critical legislation like the Endangered Species tor for the SCDNR. She manages statewide programs
Act. At the state and local levels, we should con- delivering bird conservation of nongame bird groups
sider candidates who pay more than lip service to found in South Carolina. Laurel is the Department’s
conservation and are willing to seek innovative representative for numerous bird conservation efforts
ways to combat sprawl. You can learn more including: the South Atlantic Coast Migratory Bird
about all the candidates running in SC this year Initiative, Painted Bunting Working Group, Swallow-tailed Kite Working Group,
by exploring the Elections page of the SC Informa- Ivory-billed Woodpecker Recovery Team, SC Audubon Important Bird Area
tion Highway website — Steering Committee and many others.
January 14 Talk Addresses SC Conservation Issues
Fall Adventures Ann Timberlake, director of S.C. Conservation Voters headquartered in
Our September field trips were favored with Columbia will speak to us in January. She will talk about strategies to ad-
clear weather and good birding (no American vance the conservation community’s Conservation Common Agenda in the
Golden Plovers, but we did see Common Ground 2009 legislative session: promoting water conservation, adopting surface
Doves and Buff-breasted and Pectoral Sandpipers water permitting, protecting land through the Conservation Bank, improving
at the Orangeburg Sod Farms). However, our first- air quality (especially around our ports), establishing renewable energy goals
ever trip to Botany Bay Plantation WMA on Octo- and reducing the energy use. Conservation Voters of South Carolina’s mis-
ber 12 had to be cancelled because of heavy rain sion is to make conservation and environmental issues a top priority among
and high winds. We hope to reschedule this trip, elected leaders, candidates, and voters.
perhaps this coming spring. ›› Learn more from their website:

Looking Ahead
›› OUR PUBLIC LECTURES: We meet in the 2nd floor auditorium of the main
Meanwhile, on November 15, Don Jones will
branch of the Charleston County Library, 68 Calhoun St. in Charleston.
lead an outing to Huntington Beach State Park,
Lectures are free, and open to Audubon members and guests, as well as the
well known as one of the best birding spots along
general public. We gather at 6:30 p.m. for a reception and speakers will
the SC coast. Also in November, on Thursday, the
begin at 7:00 p.m.
13th, SC DNR Biologist Laurel Barnhill will speak
to us about the Eastern Painted Bunting Popula-
tion Monitoring and Assessment Project. Upcoming Events Details in this issue
Christmas Bird Counts
The Christmas Bird Count seasons runs from De- Nov 8 – McAlhany Workday Dec 7 – Oyster Roast
cember 14 to January 5, and there are many Nov 8-17 Bird Seed Pick-up Dec 20 – Fort Moultrie birding
counts in the area to choose from – if you have Nov 13 – Lecture: Painted Buntings Dec TBA – Christmas Bird Count
never participated before and are concerned Nov 15 – Huntington Beach trip Jan 14 – Lecture: SC Conservation

—— continued, see President, page 2

2 The Lesser Squawk November-December, 2008

Why I Bird – Reflections on a Birding Life

by Andy Harrison
Despite growing up with two biologists as lantic Coast Joint Venture, to participate in I have also come to realize just how im-
parents and having maintained an inter- some bird survey work at Sewee Preserve, portant “Citizen Science” is to identifying
est in natural history all my life, I didn’t a residential development north of Mt. trends in bird numbers. In particular,
take birding “seriously” until about five or Pleasant (most of the 500-acre property is long-term data from Audubon’s Christmas
six years ago. That was when I started be- protected by a conservation easement Bird Counts, combined with information
coming active with CNHS and occasionally granted by Ducks Unlimited). Our approxi- from the Breeding Bird Surveys organized
helping to lead field trips, and I quickly re- mately quarterly surveys there have con- by the US Geological Survey, have shown
alized how little I really knew about birds tinued to the present, and since fall 2002 that over the past 40 years the popula-
and bird identification. we have documented more than 160 tions of some of our common birds have
During 1999-2001 I had done some species using the site. declined by more than 50 percent (Com-
breeding bird survey work in the bottom- In addition to helping conduct these sea- mon Birds in Decline, an Audubon State of
land hardwood swamps of the Coo- sonal surveys at Sewee Preserve, I started the Birds Report released in 2007,
sawhatchie River as part of my job with visiting birding “hotspots” in SC to look for ).
the USDA Forest Service, and I had worked uncommon species and to work on basic For example, the Northern Bobwhite (a
hard on my birding skills for that project bird identification. I also began more in- species I grew up listening to in the woods
(birding by ear in particular) – but it didn’t tense participation in local Christmas Bird behind my house on James Island) has ex-
help me much with shorebirds, seabirds Counts and spring migration counts, in- perienced an 82% crash during this period.
or many others. I knew that I needed to cluding the Charleston Spring Bird Count. Once common species around the world
get out in the field (ideally with more ex- Because of this regular experience in the are also suffering severe losses, as re-
perienced birders) and practice! My dad field, my confidence in my birding ability ported by BirdLife International in its 2008
and I started a friendly, annual competi- has gradually risen. Whenever I travel, State of the World’s Birds report
tion to see who could compile the largest whether on vacation or for work, I try to ( Strained federal
SC bird list, but over time I also began to include some birding activities. In 2005 I and state budgets make the contributions
discover a real joy in observing birds in had the opportunity to visit the Asa everyday birders can make to “Citizen Sci-
nature and learning more about their be- Wright Nature Center in Trinidad, and I ence” all the more important in helping to
havior, plumages, etc. jumped at the chance! It was a wonderful monitor common and rare species. The SC
About that time I was invited by Craig birding experience, and I added many Shorebird Project and the Eastern Painted
Watson, US FWS Biologist with the At- new species to my life list.
—— continued, see Why I Bird, page 5

President continued from page 1

about your skill level, don’t worry! It’s a great way to learn Bird Seed Sale
about birding and help contribute to “Citizen Science.” The Fall Bird Seed Sale has been another great success! Many
thanks to everyone who bought seed this past month. Remem-
McAlhany Work Day, Saturday November 8
ber to pick up your purchases at Wild Birds Unlimited from No-
On November 8 we are holding a Work Day at the McAlhany
vember 8-17. Our chapter is very appreciative of the support
Nature Preserve (MNP). Join us for a few hours and help make
that Chris Wood and Patty Montgomery, owners of the West
improvements to this beautiful property on the Edisto River! A
Ashley and Mt. Pleasant WBU stores, respectively, have given us
carpool from Charleston will meet at 7:00 a.m. behind the
over the past several years. They have helped make this “kick-
Burger King in West Ashely, corner of Sam Ritenburg and Hwy
off” fundraiser an annual CNHS event.
61. Or, meet at the property at 8:45. For directions, see For a map you can type “McAlhany Na- Bowen’s Island Oyster Roast
ture Preserve” in Google Maps (not Google web search). If you Speaking of fundraisers, make plans now to attend our second
would like additional information contact Joe Cockrell at 607- Holiday Oyster Roast at Bowen’s Island from 2-5 p.m. on De-
1070 or cember 7! Last year we had a great time enjoying oysters, chili,
Joe, our MNP committee chairperson, showed-off progress on desserts and beer on the deck overlooking the marsh. What
the longleaf pine/native grass restoration project to a field tour better way can you think of to spend a winter Sunday afternoon
from the Eastern Native Grass Symposium on October 9. Joe in the Lowcountry?
has invested a tremendous amount of effort into directing this
As always, if you are interested in volunteering at a CNHS event,
project (and working on all aspects of the management of MNP),
or have suggestions or comments, please contact me. Thanks,
and sharing its success with scientists, natural resource man-
agers, growers and other interested persons was a distinct -Andy Harrison, Chapter President
honor. 795-6934
November-December, 2008 The Lesser Squawk 3

Mark Your Calendars

family and friends. And visit our website
to download our flyer, or send others
there so that they can reserve their spots
early and save them selves a few dollars.

Workday — species of birds have been recorded. The

Field Trip —
McAlhany Preserve park features a large freshwater marsh
Ft. Moultrie, Breach Inlet
›› Saturday, Nov. 8 impoundment as well as many acres of
›› Saturday, Dec. 20, 7:00 a.m.
tidal salt marsh. Wading birds and ducks
Come help with trails and property main-
may be seen from several boardwalks Let’s go to the beach!! A phrase not often
tenance. Details page 2, President’s note.
and observation platforms. In addition heard in December, but for birders winter
Contact Joe Cockrell (
there is a nature trail and a large rock is an ideal time to check out the many
with question -- Lunch for those who reg-
jetty accessible from the ocean beach. In species of birds that can only be seen at
ister early!
past years we have seen Eagles, Reddish this time of year. Scoters, Greater and
Egrets, Piping Plovers, Purple Sandpipers, Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Purple Sand-
Bird Seed Sale —
Northern Gannets and numerous species pipers, Grebes and Loons to name only a
Pick-Up Your Seed
of loons and grebes. Last year we saw 11 few. In addition, in back of the Fort Moul-
›› Nov. 8 thru 17
species of ducks. The entry fee to the trie Visitor center there is a dock on a
Did you order seed? Now is the time to park is $5.00, $3.25 for seniors. tidal creek which provides viewing access
pick up your order from the West Ashley We will meet in the Lowe’s parking lot to mud flats, oyster bars and extensive
or Mt. Pleasant Wild Birds Unlimited -- be in Mount Pleasant just off of Rt. 17 at 7 salt marsh. A few miles up the road, at
sure to go to the store you chose on your a.m. and car pool from there. Comfort- Breach Inlet, good views of the water,
order form. able walking shoes are a must. Bring a beach and rocks may be had from the
lunch; there is a covered picnic shelter parking lot.
Lecture — and rest rooms. To register please con- We will probably bird until noon or a
Painted Buntings in SC tact Don Jones by November 14 at 572- little after so bring a snack or lunch, or
›› Thursday, Nov. 13, 6:30 p.m. 8232 or you may want to eat at one of the many
local restaurants. We’ll meet in the park-
Our public lecture for November features
2nd Annual Bowen’s Island ing lot next to the Fort Moultrie Visitor
Laurel Barnhill, Bird Conservation Coordi-
Holiday Oyster Roast Center at 7 a.m. Bring a scope if you have
nator for SCDNR. She will discuss Painted
›› Saturday, Dec. 7, 2-5 p.m. one and dress for the weather. Please
Buntings and citizen science conservation
register prior to 12-20 by contacting Don
efforts in our state. (More on p.1). Talk to Last December we had a great time eat-
Jones @ 572-8232 or
start at 7 p.m., 2nd floor auditorium of ing oysters, drinking beer and watching
the main branch of the Charleston the sun set from the deck of the famous
Lecture —
County Library, 68 Calhoun St. Bowen’s Island Restaurant, and we plan-
Conservation Issues
ning to do it again! This year’s event will
›› Wed., Jan. 14,2009 - 6:30 p.m.
Field Trip — run from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, December
Huntington Beach 7. Details and a form for reserving admis- With Ann Timberlake, director of the SC
›› Saturday, Nov. 15, 7:00 a.m. sion on the back of this page — Early Conservation Voters. An impressive array
ticket sales save you money; tickets will of conservation issues face the state and
On Saturday Nov. 15th we’ll be going to
cost $15 in advance, but $20 at the door. the nation, come learn about efforts to
one of the premier birding locations on
Please make your plans to attend with make sure our voice is heard. Details, p.1
the East Coast, where more than 300

Join Audubon’s Citizen Science Team To Tell the World Why Birds Count
From December 14, 2008 through January nature has driven dedicated people to shape their future and ours.
5, 2009, tens of thousands of volunteers leave the comfort of a warm house in the For information about the dates and
throughout the Americas will take part in middle of winter. contact information for the counts in our
an adventure that has become a family These Citizen Scientists are taking ac- area, please visit the Carolina Bird Club
tradition among generations. Grandmoth- tion for conservation. By participating in website where count status is updated
ers and students, soccer moms and scien- Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, they regularly:
tists, armed with binoculars, bird guides help scientists understand how birds are
and checklists will head out on an annual faring amid unprecedented environmental
mission – often before dawn. For over one challenges. The data they collect informs For background and past results:
hundred years, the desire to both make a the world about the State of Birds, and
difference and to experience the beauty of provides the information we need to
4 The Lesser Squawk November-December, 2008

Bowen’s Island Oyster Roast, 12/7

Last December we had a great time eating oysters, drinking beer and watching the sun set
from the deck of the famous Bowen’s Island Restaurant, and we planning to do it again! This
year’s event will run from 2-5 p.m. on Sunday, December 7. Make plans now to attend, and
bring a few friends along too…. The cost of admission is the same as last year – $15 in ad-
vance or $20 at the door (see order form, below). For advance admission purchases, please
mail the names of those attending and your checks (made payable to the Charleston Natural
History Society) to P.O. Box 504, Charleston SC 29402 no later than December 1, 2008. That
way we’ll be sure to have your reservation at the door.
In addition to oysters and beer, we will also offer chili (regular and vegetarian), desserts and
soft drinks. We hope to have a local musician on hand to provide entertainment, but at press
time this had not yet been confirmed. However, we will once again sell raffle tickets for some
great prizes contributed by local businesses. Just like last year, tickets for the raffle prizes and
beer will be sold at the door. We are also recruiting volunteers to help set up or perform other
Event flyers are available on our chores during the event (you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the oysters, etc.), and we would
website. Help us advertise by welcome desserts from anyone willing to bring them.
posting some or just passing If you are willing to help in either capacity, please call or e-mail Andy Harrison at 795-6934
them out to your friends. or See you at Bowen’s Island on December 7!

We Need Your Help to Thrive, to Meet Our Goals

Each month our local Audubon chapter, known for decades as and contunie our stewardship of the McAlhany property.
the Charleston Natural History Society, hosts public lectures and
birding field trips. We publish this newsletter and are developing
Will You Help?
Please contact one of the currently active board/committee
content for the chapter web site ( And
members if you’d like to help —
when conservation issues arise, we mobilize to educate the pub-
lic and ensure that our opinions are heard by our elected offi- ›› Planning and conducting outdoor work at McAlhany
cials. Our chapter also oversees and maintains the McAlhany Joe Cockrell: 607-1070 or
Nature Preserve, and participates in a variety of area events and
›› Writing or locating stories for the newsletter/website
citizen science projects.
Steve Bleezarde: 406-2061 or
Our chapter has over 1,000 members on the rolls, which
speaks to the strength of our local chapter and National Audubon ›› Joining the board to support all our ongoing activities, or expand
Society. And as we look ahead, it is important that we get more our chapter’s conservation, education, or membership activities
members involved in our day-to-day activities. We always have a Andy Harrison: 795-6934 or
good response when we ask for help with specific projects – this
time we’re asking you to consider becoming involved in the Of course we need need to ensure that ALL or activities con-
chapter’s ongoing activities. It only takes an hour or two a month tinue, so if you’re interested in outings or programs, fundrais-
to make sure that we contunie to offer strong programs, raise ing, or anything we do – please let us know. And thanks to all
operating funds, reach out to the public, monitor public policy those who help as well as all who will help inthe future.

Second Annual Holiday Oyster Roast – Admission Reservation Order Form

MAKE CHECKS PAYABLE TO: Charleston Natural History Society

MAIL TO: P.O. Box 504, Charleston, SC 29402


November-December, 2008 The Lesser Squawk 5

Support Funding thru

Got Birds? New Guide for Kids
Migratory Bird Act
Getting kids outdoors, away from com- Color photographs
As a birder, do you ask yourself what you puters, DVDs, iPods and all of the other are used for identi-
can do to help ensure that populations of indoor distractions, can be difficult. And fication purposes,
the birds you take so much pleasure in if your goal is to convince them that one and black-and-
seeing survive and thrive? Well here is of YOUR hobbies is fun and rewarding, white line draw-
the perfect opportunity for us all to act. then the battle can certainly seem all up ings by Zickefoose
With very little effort, we can make a real hill. That might just be where this book illustrate interest-
difference for birds. comes in. ing behaviors or
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), has New from the Peterson line, written by characteristics.
introduced legislation (S. 3490) in the Bird Watcher’s Digest editor Bill Thompson There are “Wow!” fac-
Senate to reauthorize the existing III, with illustrations from Julie Zicke- toids on many species, a durable “wipe-
Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation foose, this book is aimed at children ages clean” cover, an even space for young
Act (NMBCA). This bill is companion leg- 8-12 (although younger children may birders to check off birds they have spot-
islation to H.R. 5756, which was intro- enjoy it with some help from their par- ted and the date the species was seen.
duced in the House of Representatives ents.) “The Young Birder’s Guide - Birds From the clear identification tips to the
earlier this year. You can help these bills of Eastern North America” covers 200 of engaging quick facts, the book is very-
pass by taking action in the Act for Song- the more common birds children will en- well designed to grab the younger
birds Campaign. counter if they take up birding. The se- reader’s attention and maintain their in-
Originally passed by the U.S. Congress lection is well thought out, and while terest as they take to the outdoors and
in 2000, NMBCA establishes a competi- serious children will soon discover they begin making their own identifications.
tive matching grants program that sup- need a “real” guide to keep up with their For the child who shows some interest
sightings, this book has wonderful art- and wants a book to call their own, you
ports public-private partnerships carrying
work and interesting facts to make can’t ask for a more suitable, useful book
out projects in the United States, Canada,
learning about birds generally, and than this one.
Latin America, and the Caribbean. These
species in particular, fun and engaging. — review by steve bleezarde
programs promote and foster the long-
term conservation of Neotropical migra-
tory birds and their habitats.
NMBCA has a proven track-record of Why I Bird continued from page 2
success. More than $21 million in NMBCA
grants have leveraged over $97 million in Bunting Population Assessment and Mon- had previously seen only one other indi-
required matching partner contributions itoring Project both rely on coverage pro- vidual in SC.
for projects in 44 U.S. states/territories vided by volunteers (although requiring a The excitement of observing such a
and 34 other countries. little more experience and better equip- bird, combined with the enjoyment of fig-
In 2006, Congress reauthorized the with ment), and CNHS members are active par- uring out what I saw, is one reason that I
funding of $6.5 million over the next five ticipants in each of these projects. am a birder. There are other, more senti-
years, but appropriation is still well below On a windy, overcast Saturday morning mental reasons, but a second factor that
that at $4.5 million for 2008. Currently, in October this year I visited Patriot’s Point motivates me is helping to make sure
many more grant applications are re- to do some fall migration birding. Having species like the Cape May Warbler (and
ceived than can be funded, and so, many walked along the trail and seen and heard Northern Bobwhite) continue to appear in
worthwhile projects go unsupported. many of the usual suspects (American SC. The Christmas Bird Count is an ideal
In response to this need, American Bird Redstarts, Gray Catbirds and Palm War- way for novices to learn from more expe-
Conservancy and other members of the blers, among others), I entered a clearing rienced birders and at the same time
Bird Conservation Alliance have formed a behind the former brush pile site and make a valuable contribution. The Car-
coalition that is working in a coordinated scanned the upper branches of the sur- olina Bird Club website (www.carolin-
effort to achieve early reauthorization of rounding trees – mindful of the distant provides
the NMBCA funding levels to reach $20 thunder and incipient raindrops. Then I location and contact information for
million per year by 2015. spotted a strange bird foraging in a fruit- many of the local counts. Another “Citi-
We can all take part in this campaign laden branch high in a Chinaberry tree – I zen Science” event, the Great Backyard
by going to could tell it was something new, but what? Birdcount, takes place in February – and
and, through the automated system, tell Despite the poor light I was able to pick you don’t even have to leave your home!
our representatives to support the pro- out some distinctive field marks and (with (GBBC information is available at
posed legislation in the House and Sen- the help of my trusty Peterson Guide) con- So break out
ate. This is one thing everybody can do firmed that I had an immature Cape May your binoculars this winter, and start
for birds, so Act for Songbirds today - visit Warbler. This is not a rare species (al- counting – you never know what you though its numbers are declining), but I might see!
The Charleston Audubon & NON-PROFIT ORG.
Natural History Society
Charleston, South Carolina 29402

Charleston Audubon – serving Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties, founded as the Charleston Natural
History Society in 1905, and a chapter of the National Audubon Society since 1970 – is a nonprofit environmental
organization that actively promotes awareness, appreciation and conservation of the natural environment through
educational programs, field trips, conservation projects, sponsored research and social activities.

Learn more at

Global Warming: Making Ourselves Part of the Solution

All of us use fossil fuels every day — for heating • You can reduce your energy consumption a lot by using less hot water. Run
and cooling our homes, driving our cars, generat- your dishwasher only when full, and wash clothes in cold or warm water,
ing the electricity to power our lights and appli- never hot. Look for Energy Star appliances when it is time to replace yours.
ances, and more. In the process we produce the • Almost everything we buy requires the consumption of fossil fuels. Manu-
greenhouse gases that are primarily responsible facturing, packing, and transporting all use huge amounts of energy. When
for global warming. Fortunately, each of us also shopping, ask, “Do I really need this?”
has the power to reduce our consumption of fossil • Stay informed, write letters to your leaders, and support those candidates
fuels. Here are some of the most important ways who promise to take the aggressive and farsighted actions necessary to
we can all make a difference: curb global warming. LEARN MORE:
• Consider driving less by taking public trans-
portation, walking, bicycling, or carpooling.
Drive a more energy-efficient vehicle. New Members, Renewals, Gift Memberships
• Try switching from conventional incandescent
For only $20* you get one-year subscriptions to Audubon
bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescents.
magazine and The Lesser Squawk, and all the benefits of
Or better yet, try to maximize your use of natu- local and National Audubon Society membership.
ral sunlight for daytime lighting needs. Renew for just $35/year. *$15 for Sr. Citizens and Students
• Take every step possible to reduce excessive use
of home heating and cooling. Try turning up the
thermostat in the summer and turning it down THIS MEMBERSHIP IS FOR:
a few degrees in the winter. Try installing better NAME
insulation throughout the house. Seal up win- ADDRESS
dows, close vents, and clean filters. CITY STATE ZIP
• New refrigerators use about 50% less energy MAIL THIS COUPON AND YOUR CHECK TO:


than those made just 10-15 years ago. That's a AUDUBON MEMBERSHIP CENTER
big deal, considering that refrigerators account
BOULDER, CO 80323-1003
for between 10 and 15% of total home energy Checks payable to National Audubon Society. Include our chapter code on your check: U-51 7XCH